Friday, June 10, 2011

Odd day today - liminal - a new word for me, learned about in the last week. It means being between things, on the threshold. I remember being very young - second grade maybe - walking with a slightly older boy along a sidewalk up the road and around the corner from the house where I grew up. He seemed so very much older, bigger and taller. He was in fifth grade I believe. He & I were acquainted because his grandmother was our next-door neighbor on the other side of the privet. He may have been one of my earliest crushes, I don't remember - or a pre-crush, like a "training bra." Anyway, he was nice, a godlike figure to me, he was that much bigger & taller, his knowledge more advanced having lived longer, and he was kind. He and I walked along the cracked sidewalk in front of the then-existing Catholic nuns' convent property, a handsome sprawling white-painted Victorian set back behind a spacious lawn and gracious drive. In front of the lawn was the municipal sidewalk where he and I walked, with cracks every so often, spaces between the pours of concrete. And he - what was his name? I don't remember - said to me "step on a crack, break your mother's back." And perhaps because English was my second language at that time - or let me backtrack - American English was my third language at that time, because my parents had tried, in our infancy to rear us to speak in pure Polish, but, having been born & raised here in the States, inevitably English had to creep in as even our toddler selves - or toddler self, I'll speak for myself - made social contacts in the corporeal neighborhood world. But my parents had learned English - in England, and clung to Anglicisms. While of course I was learning American English.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.

My parents tried to eradicate all traces of impending possible Stamford accent as soon as they detected it, like getting at blackheads (which weirdly, I have this memory of my mother and her younger half-sister, going over my face for blackheads and whiteheads - while I was in elementary school. Weird.).

Mirra mirra on the wall

Mirr-or! It's Mirr-or', one or both of my parents would admonish.
I could go on, were I writing a memoir, there were many such examples.

I was so confused growing up, that for the longest time I affected an English accent - tried to find a compromise, speaking American English as absorbed from school, encounters with playmates playing hopscotch, say, but inflected not so much with my parents' Polish-accented British English, but with whatever tones I managed to absorb from, say, Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies that played on Saturday afternoons on, maybe WOR, Channel 9. Black and white movies on the TV whose dial one would have to get up from the shag rug to manually turn. Don't turn it too fast, you'll break it!! So I'd turn it EVER SO SLOWLY like obeying those stupid 30 m.p.h. speed limits on Route 9 in Sacred K'hook.

So: step on a crack, break your mother's back. I puzzled over this phrase that this bigger boy had uttered to me automatically. We held hands as he walked, and his stride was so much longer than mine, which is probably why the phrase occurred to him. We couldn't walk together in the same rhythm. So he could easily, in his natural footfalls, step over the cracks, while I had to add in an extra step, or a little jump, or somehow accommodate for the coming crack. And I certainly didn't want to crack my mother's back, what a horrible calamity, for simply stepping on a line, a worn mortar-filled space from which perhaps a weed even poked. The punishment, cruel & excessive, didn't seem to fit the crime!

So I've been feeling between things today, in a liminal mood maybe, though I don't wish to overuse this new and what seems to me very powerful word. I had started the day with energetic hopes of getting going, cleaning the house, but somehow was in a "watery" mood, reflective, wishing to linger and read, reflect - and so I gave in to that, and am glad I did - why not? There wasn't really anything pressing for me to do, so I could give in to thinking, reflecting, reading. I breakfasted on strawberry-rhubarb pie I'd made, with a spoon of whipped cream (that pie came out incredibly delicious), and then D left the house around ten, and I still (unusually) wasn't yet showered & dressed, and so I gave in to an urge to lie down again with my new toy and though the batteries were running low I managed, and rather enjoyed the animal odors of my own unwashed perspiration from the night's sleep, but found I couldn't do it again, come that is, and so got up and read some more, rediscovered an essayist I really like, and if I were a more serious, or more devotedly serious writer maybe I'd write like her.

And in this between-things kind of day, giving in to not plunging in, I've been thinking about how it's been three years sometime this month, around now, that 1.0 re-appeared in my life, via a signed book he mailed me and a note, after not having any contact with him for decades, that my world, my inner world that is, turned upside down. It wasn't him that done it. It was the effect of him, on me. Very powerful. I think I'm on the other side now, but not entirely. I still think of him, but these days more dispassionately, at arm's length, considering him. I'm in love with someone else now, the thought of whom I find - well, the thought of him makes me happy. I believe that he gets me, that he's steady.

You can't tell when you see the typed words on this virtual page, but I've been very hesitantly typing the last few lines... my fingers have slowed as I try to figure it out, get at the difference.

They're both, at this point, phantom, dream, utterly unavailable lovers. With 1.0 I experienced, at a tender age, stepping on a crack and falling through it in a way that my faux-anglophile style hadn't prepared me for, great ecstasy, a taste of the wonderful, of the exotic, of the miraculous - but following that, when he was done, utter harrowing horrible pain.

I'm in love with someone now who doesn't cause me pain. It's just a lot of abiding unattainable handholding and well-wishing and connecting. Spencer Tracy to my Katherine Hepburn maybe, though with far less contact than those two had.

What was Oprah's phrase? Connect, embrace, liberate, love somebody.

No pain.

Goodnight, dearest Tinman.

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